The objectives of this study were to provide a quantitative description of the long-term effects of environmental variability on xylem functional traits, in order to better assess xylem capacity to change in response to climate change. Twenty-six sites throughout the world, primarily in Europe, were chosen where results from long-term measurements of anatomical traits were previously published. Published data on long-term xylem anatomy (conduit size and density) and ring width variability were compiled across a range of tree species, which was subsequently related to variability in temperature, precipitation and nitrogen deposition rates across the study sites using generalized additive models and Bayesian methods. We found some appreciable relationships between xylem traits (conduit area Ac and conduit density Dc) and environmental variables; whereas combined trait indices (lumen fraction: Ac × Dc and vessel composition: Ac/Dc) were found to be rather constant across a wide range of environmental conditions and to be decoupled from tree growth rates. Overall, results suggested xylem traits coordinated towards a homeostasis in xylem function, which appeared to act across a wide range of environmental conditions. Results showed also nitrogen deposition was associated with xylem traits and vessel composition: increased nitrogen availability due to nitrogen deposition might facilitate construction of a xylem structure efficient for water transport, and concurrently provide capacity to withstand the risks of drought-induced embolism.
M Borghetti, T Gentilesca, S Leonardi, T van Noije, A Rita, M Mencuccini. Long-term temporal relationships between environmental conditions and xylem functional traits: a meta-analysis across a range of woody species along climatic and nitrogen deposition gradients
Journal: Tree Physiology, Volume: 37, Year: 2017, First page: 4, Last page: 17, doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpw087